Apple Migrating Users to the Cloud

Stephen Yagielowicz

LOS ANGELES — The rapid uptake of mobile technology and new devices is transforming the way that consumers access and store data, with Apple leading the way into the cloud.

The latest example of this seismic shift that is seeing the demise of personal storage, via hard drives and other legacy technologies, in favor of communal storage in the cloud, comes from Apple and its recent announcement that its popular professional photography application, Aperture, is being retired in favor of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library.

“You’re never without your camera.  Now you’ll never be without your photos,” states an Apple rep. “Every photo and video you take now lives in iCloud — giving you the freedom to access your library from any device, anytime you want. So you can view a photo from last week or last year no matter where you are.”

According to the company, once enabled on the user’s iOS devices, iCloud Photo Library automatically stores all photos and videos in iCloud, at full resolution in their original formats, including RAW files for access via iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or via the Internet, using a web browser. 

“Now you can search thousands of your photos right from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Search by the date or time the photo was taken, location, or album name. Whether you’re at work, on the train, at a restaurant, or on vacation, finding a photo has never been simpler,” the rep continued. “Just tap the search icon, and you’ll get choices based on what’s important to you. One more tap gives you immediate access to photos taken nearby, photos taken the same time last year, or your all-time favorite photos.”

It all sounds nice and useful for digital photographers, but there are underlying moves that may be cause for concern among consumers and privacy advocates worried about cloud security — and the financial motivation that companies will face to harvest and monetize cloud-based data.

Current iCloud plans provide 5GB of free storage, with other storage plans starting at 99¢ per month — and going up from there (and it will not take long for RAW shooters and video fans to exceed this limit). Thus the more the service is used, the more a company makes — and the more that a customer spends on an expense that is not present when using traditional hard-drive storage.

It is an increasingly commonplace swap of cash for convenience echoed in the move to replace software sales with software subscriptions — recurring charges for what was once a one-time expense. If it is commercially possible to not only charge a fee to access an application, but to use it as well, then firms will want to do it, and with products such as Photos and iCloud Photo Library, Apple is leading the way.